| Updated at: 1533 PST, Monday, November 21, 2011|
LONDON: More people than ever are living with the AIDS virus but this is largely due to better access to drugs that keep HIV patients alive and well for many years, the United Nations AIDS programme (UNAIDS) said on Monday.
In its annual report on the pandemic, UNAIDS said the number of people dying of the disease fell to 1.8 million in 2010, down from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s.
UNAIDS director Michel Sidibe said the past 12 months had been a "game-changing year" in the global AIDS fight.
Some 2.5 million deaths have been averted in poor and middle-income countries since 1995 due to AIDS drugs being introduced and access to them improving, according to UNAIDS.
Much of that success has come in the past two years as the numbers of people getting treatment has increased rapidly.
"We've never had a year when there has been so much science, so much leadership and such results in one year," Sidibe said in a telephone interview from UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva.
"Even in this time of public finance crises and uncertainty about funding, we're seeing results. We are seeing more countries than ever before (achieving) significant reductions in new infections and stabilising their epidemics."
Since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, more than 60 million people have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. HIV can be controlled for many years with cocktails of drugs, but there is as yet no cure. (Reuters)